Woman who left polygamous sect is seeking child support

She wants financial help for her eight children.

The Salt Lake Tribune/May 14, 2009

San Angelo, Texas - Carolyn Jessop, author of a best-selling book about her life as a plural wife in a controversial polygamous sect, wants a Utah judge to order the father of her eight children to financially support them.

In a petition filed Wednesday in Schleicher County, Jessop asks that Frederick Merril Jessop, 72, be ordered to provide child support, health insurance, a share of the children's uninsured medical expenses, private school expenses, counseling, day care and after-school expenses while the case is pending. Jessop also asks the court to require her former husband to pay for her attorney fees of at least $2,000 a month.

Jessop is being represented by attorney Natalie Malonis of Denton, Texas. Malonis formerly represented a daughter of Warren S. Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

While other hearings have been held in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court, the petition asks this time the proceedings be held in a Texas court. Jessop is an FLDS bishop and oversees the sect's Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas. He is among 10 men indicted last year by a grand jury on charges related to underage marriages, including that of a daughter who was spiritually married to Jeffs at age 12.

Carolyn Jessop wants the support payments to be retroactive to April 22, 2003, a day after she left the sect with their eight children now ranging in age from 8 to 22. That would require him to provide some assistance on behalf of two children who are now adults as well as ongoing support for six children who are minors. Jessop asks that the support be ongoing for one son who is disabled.

Betty Jane Jessop, the couple's oldest daughter, returned to live with her father and the sect after she returned 18, but the other children remain with their mother.

Jessop also asks that Merril Jessop be required to take out a life insurance policy to benefit her children in the event of his death. Merril Jessop has at least 40 children, according to court testimony.

Jessop shared details about her spiritual marriage at age 18 to Merril Jessop, then 50, in her book Escape , which was a New York Times ' best-seller and has made her a popular speaker around the country. The book is being made into a movie by actress Katherine Heigl.

Readers note: This story has been corrected to change the sought-for location for the court hearing to Texas.

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